Betina had no idea what it was, where it had come from, or why it was there. She really shouldn't have been in the house to begin with, but it was too late now.
She had always been intrigued by the house next door. Though it was dilapidated and hadn't seen an occupant in years, its yawning doorway and watchful windows beckoned her each time she walked by.
Giving in to her curiosity at last on a Sunday afternoon, Betina finally dared to cross the threshold into the unknown beyond of the haunted-looking house. The light that made its way inside fell in shafts through the dust that hung in the air. Her feet crunched over the fallen glass from the shattered windows, and she looked down at the broken shards. Her face dimly stared back up at her through a coating of grime and she looked away, moving further into the room.
A family of mice must have taken up residence, as Betina could hear their small footsteps scurrying away when she entered the kitchen. A table lay on its side; one leg broken off, lying neglected on the floor nearby. Broken bottles were strewn everywhere from the last vagabond that had taken refuge within its walls. The young intruder wrinkled her nose at the pile of dirty rags that graced the empty fireplace. They smelled like they desperately needed some kerosene and a lit match.
On the whole, there was not much at all to see, and Betina marvelled that she had been curious about the run down old house in the first place. She turned to leave.
It was then she heard a tinkling sound, and chills swept across her skin as she stopped, turning to see where it had come from. To her right, leading off from the kitchen, she saw steps leading downward into what looked to be a cellar. However it was not the steps, nor the cellar itself that caused her to feel a cold draft up her spine - it was the eerie blue light that had fallen upon the lowest step. Something was down there - and it was glowing.
Betina took a few trembling steps towards the gaping hole in the house's rickety floor boards. The light seemed to pulse; beckoning; the sound of musical bells growing stronger. The young girl put her foot on the edge of the first step, and slowly, cautiously, descended the staircase. What would she find?
As she reached the floor of the cellar, she squinted at the source of the light, trying to see what it was. Drawing closer, the light dimmed a little and she could finally make out a silver edge that reflected around the light's perimeter. Cautiously, she moved towards it, and as the light continued to recede as she approached, Betina realized the glowing object was a mirror.
She recoiled inwardly. She had not looked into a mirror since the accident. She raised her hand instinctively to touch her cheeks and forehead - hiding behind it, as she had become accustomed to do. After that first glance upon her scarred face in the hospital during her recovery... Betina slid her eyes closed in anguish over the memory. She remembered that she had uttered a cry of horror and grief before hurling the mirror across the room; the tinkling sound of glass shattering against the wall still resonating in her ears. Never, she had sworn. Never again would she look upon the glass surface of a mirror again.
With her eyes clenched shut and her palms sweating, she turned from the glowing, ornate looking-glass, intending to return whence she had come as fast as she could; leaving the mirror and her fears behind.
“Don’t be afraid.”
Betina’s feet froze in their place at the sound of the mystic voice. Slowly, she turned her head to catch a glimpse of the bewitched mirror. The blue light was dissipating, revealing a cloudy surface of the mirror that seemed to be boiling into a steaming mass. The young woman stood transfixed by the sight of the mist that began pouring out of the glass and into the room; soft tendrils of smoky fog wafting across the floor of the basement to envelope her feet. Looking up again, Betina saw that the clouds inside the mirror had gathered together to form a blurry face; dark eyes and a solemn mouth, the only things that appeared human.
“Don’t be afraid.” It said again in a soft and breathy voice.
“W-Who are you?”
The dark eyes watched Betina intently. “I am the mirror of the soul. I judge faces by their hearts.”
Betina dropped her gaze from the probing stare of the mirror, heat rising up her neck. Her hand rose self-consciously to her face again, tracing the familiar scars with her fingertips for the hundredth time. What was in the heart mattered not to her. She was ugly, a monster. She once was lovely to look upon, but not anymore. A tear slid down the scarred tissue and through her fingers. She would never be beautiful again.
“You are beautiful.” The silvery voice whispered softly.
“How can you say that?!” Betina shouted; her voice cracking as her throat constricted around welling tears. “Look at me!” She wrenched her hand away from her face and stood tall and defiant: facing the shame. Facing the fear - the truth - of her reflection.
The smoky face had faded, and her own face stared back at her. The deep slashing scars across her forehead and cheeks stood out starkly, casting shadows across the unmarred skin. The patches of burnt flesh destroyed what little had remained of her distinguishable features, rending her entire face completely disfigured and hideous to look upon. Only her eyes gazed back at her for a split second - fear and abhorrence unmasked.
She couldn’t bear it. With an anguished cry, she bent over and scooped up a shard of metal before advancing towards the glowing mirror. Choking back tears, Betina raised the metal shard, intending to smash the mocking reflection beyond repair. Slamming her free hand upon the surface to hold it still, she lifted her clenched weapon in the other, forcing herself to stare back into her own tortured eyes before their destruction -
But as she paused, something strange began to happen to her appearance in the glass. Her hideous disfigurements began to fade as the tendrils of mist slowly enveloped her reflection; fingers of fog reaching out and erasing the scars of cuts and burns. The patchy-coloured blemishes were replaced with smooth clear skin, tinged with a perfect rosy pink. Her eyes widened, and she saw her pretty duplicate’s mouth open with surprise; perfect full lips round with wonder. She was beautiful – the way she had been before the accident.
Betina glanced around and spied a glass hanging from the ceiling of the cellar. She moved forward slightly to peer into its dull surface. No, she realized. The mirror lied. She was still ugly.
“But this is not your face,” The mirror spoke softly. “This is your heart.”
Betina looked again at the mirror’s stunning image of her. “It doesn’t matter,” she whispered brokenly. “No one can see my heart.”
“Yes, they can. If you be just what you were created to be, your heart’s beauty will shine out of your face, regardless of the scars. And this is the unfading beauty; a gentle and quiet spirit that nothing can hide.”
The young woman let her hand fall to rest against her heart, feeling its gentle pounding against her fingers. A soft voice, a wisp of memory floated through her mind: you are precious and honoured in My sight… I love you.
As her heart swelled in an unexplainable way, Betina reached out and touched her reflection in the glass; the smooth mirror cool beneath her fingertips. The image changed, and she saw her real self - scars and all - in different places: serving people, loving the unlovable, using her gifts for good causes. She saw herself giving of her time and her money to those who needed it. She saw herself smile through the scars as she handed a piece of candy to a hospitalized child. Here she was baking a meal. Folding laundry. Delivering groceries. And throughout it all, her eyes were shining with the joy of giving, her face alight in a way she never realized. She barely even noticed the scars. She was beautiful... in a way the face could never be on its own. Truth dawning, she let out an amazed breath, and smiled freely, ecstatically. How beautiful was the Spirit inside of her heart!
The mirror suddenly reverted to a simple looking-glass, the mystic blue fog dissipating and seeping out of the room, Betina’s stark reflection staring back at her plainly beneath the palms of her hands.
The scars were still there, same as always. Yet the stillness of the now quiet room seemed to trickle into her soul, and as she gazed into her own eyes, Betina saw a peace fill her face; the fear and shame vanishing. She smiled again, and the mirror glowed back. Throwing back her head, she laughed out loud. Raising her hands to the sky, she danced in the cellar and the blinding magic light, the sound of bells filling the air.
She was loved... and she was beautiful.
As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person.